It’s heartbreaking to see other kids being mean to your child, but it’s difficult to know when to step in and when to step back. All children need friends that support and love them, but sometimes a child becomes a target for bullying. You can attack this problem from several different angles–by working with your child, with other parents or with the school.
When other children constantly say mean things to your child, she may start to internalize those negative thoughts, starting actually to believe them. This low self-esteem can prevent her from succeeding. In some cases, bullying has even led a child to commit suicide. If you don’t step in to help your child deal with the bullying, it can have negative effects that could last a lifetime.
Getting Your Child to Open Up
One of the most difficult things to do is to get your child to open up and tell you that he’s the victim of bullying or that other children are being mean to him. Your child may be embarrassed about his problems, or he may be scared that the situation will become worse if he tells you. Look for signs that other children are being mean, such as a change in his attitude or poor sleeping habits. You may be able to ask your child directly about the things that are going on, but you may have to be more subtle. Use books, television or movies that deal with bullying to bring the topic up with your child. Ask her what she thinks about it–what the bullied child should do and what the bullying children should do. Ask if she’s ever seen that happen or if it’s happened to her. Try to be open and allow your child to speak without being judgmental.
The most important thing you can do for your child is to offer your love and support. Help your child to understand that he is a worthy person, no matter what the other kids are telling him. You can offer suggestions for what he can do to help the situation, but it’s important that you do this in a way that lets him know that you love him and that you are not disappointed with him.
Some parents are afraid that if they step in, the bullying problem will only get worse. Others may feel that children should learn how to deal with bullies on their own. This attitude can make the child feel worse, because she feels that she doesn’t have adult support. She can feel even more alone in the world.
One way to deal with the situation is to talk with the parents of the children who are being mean to your child. The other parents may not know their child is behaving in this manner and may appreciate the opportunity to correct it. You can also talk to your child about the ways that he can deal with it when others are mean to him–that he could try to ignore the behavior, state that he disagrees or tell a teacher when it’s happening.
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